NJ to ME with a Trailer on the Lightning

It takes some planning and extra time, but we were able to drive to Acadia National Park with our F-150 Lightning Lariat ER with a travel trailer in tow. Facts at the end of the post, but well, the post will say nothing new here: Charging infrastructure for non-Tesla EVs suck in the USA, even in the relatively-densely populated part of US that is New England.

What might be new is, more specifically, how it is like charging while towing a travel trailer. Also what might be new is what serious advantages you can get out of this rig for those doing the travel trailer life. What might also be new is that you can even do it…without that much difficulty.

So for the longest time I wanted to revisit Acadia National Park, having previously visited 20+ years prior. It’s scenic and a cool place to visit during the summer. The views are great, and so are the seafood. Maine is known for the lobsters but also, I guess, a nice tea time at the Jordan Pond House. For this trip we stayed at the Schoodic side of the park, which is quiet and much less crowded compared to Desert Island and Bar Harbor. It all worked out as I was traveling with two retirees (Mom and Pop) and I was working remotely during the non-travel days anyway. What I am thankful for was that, besides the trip having worked out without much issues, but the great weather also that week. The sun came out and the stars was a nice change from the urban light pollution that I am used to.

After some online battles I was able to score a campsite reservation at the Schoodic Woods Campground, which is one of the few RV parks (well it’s more like a campground) in the Acadia region managed by the National Parks Service. It’s an unbeatable value if you couple it with one of the senior passes that they sell. Anyways, these electric/water RV sites also book out really quick so you have to do the online reservation thing right when they release the sites at 10am every day. The sites offer a lot of space and a lot of privacy (by RV park standards), plus it comes with 20/30/50 electric and water connection. Again, it’s also super cheap.

We were up there for about a week. What we would do for most days was, we get up for breakfast, then my folk would take off in the truck while I worked at the site. Later on we’d go out for meals (or cook in) or go sightseeing. Signals are strong enough with LTE Verizon and T-Mobile (Fi). My Verizon sim died literally the night I got there, so I couldn’t work off of it, and TMO can get congested when the site is crowded (like at night). But it was fast enough to work…fast enough for Zoom but not fast enough for Discord VC. I played multiplayer Gloomhaven one night with some folks back south and other than VC not dong well, it worked fine.

All of that driving fuel after we got to Acadia? Complementary to the camp site because we can plug the truck into the 50 while our 30 amp trailer use up the other plug. Of the two places we plugged in for RV, both had 50/30 (and 20) and neither had an issue drawing power for both the truck, the trailer, and our appliances. That said we didn’t run the AC, but we did run the heater and fridge and microwave etc. We didn’t really use our water boiler in electric though.

Rigging up the camper and the truck power connection can be a little tricky so we just have to plan correctly when we back in or pull through. I guess this is not too unusual, and it does mean we have 30 and 50 extension cables just in case. We didn’t need to use them on this trip though. The truck pulls about 10-12 miles an hour of charge when recharging, which seems about right. It’s so much electricity that we would not be able to drive far enough every day to make a notable dent in the nightly charge back into the tank.


The trip itself took about 2 days for us going up, and also 2 days coming down. We reserved a night going each way at a RV park/resort about half way, both to kick back after traveling each day and to fully charge the truck while we’re at it. I figured with the distance plus charging time, it would be way too hard to be enjoyable with two old timers in tow to do it in one day. I was initially expecting the travel trailer (rated 5000lb ballpark) to about half the total range of the Lightning Lariat ER with Max Tow (so up to 10000lb). That’s about 160ish miles MAX, but practically it’s more like 80% of that or about 130 miles, after taking into account margins and the charging curve. This also means I can probably get away fine without a weight distribution hitch and just rely on the built-in electronic trailer stability feature. In reality that was pretty much the case, but a WDH would have helped somewhat in the driving part. Still, it probably would be kind of a pain when you run into a situation where you have to disconnect the trailer for charging reasons.

The towing experience itself is surprisingly good, most of the time on the highway I almost forget I was towing (which is lol a possible problem too). It’s fast off the line, which was appreciated when I was pulling out of a rest stop in Connecticut that had a stop sign on the merge. Like, you are going to be faster than most cars, let alone the average half-ton towing a trailer.

When handling bumpy roads though, you can definitely feel it. This EV is not magic. The suspension does float some, which is the big drawback with the Lightning in general IMO (software aside). You can also feel the electronic trailer stability going when it gets windy, rainy, and getting passed. That last thing happened a lot, if you want to get good range while towing, which is just a fact of life I guess. Gotta drive 65 in a 70? I think our trailer is right up to about half of the towing capacity, so a WDH will be a tangible benefit, just not a requirement.

Range calculation (or the computer in the truck anyway) is quite conservative while towing. We were pulling about 1 mile per KWh or so on the highway, and up to 1.2 on slower roads. Typically we stop for charge every 90 to 120 miles, depending on where the charging station is. (Also, old people needs to use the restroom.) We stayed, typically, 45-70 minutes at each DC Fast Charging stop. Well, “Fast Charging” because we stayed at a couple technically DCFC places that went up to 62KW, which is quite slow, and I didn’t count that one time. We were suffering from range anxiety when we were going up north around Bangor, and there are basically no good chargers around there. The ones on the map are all at dealerships. So we went to one and got a bit of juice.

Driving it on one pedal worked pretty well, you can definitely feel the regen breaking work differently with a trailer so make sure to set up the electronic trailer break too. There are definitely games you can play to try to capture as much kinetic energy as possible, on longer stopping distances.

I drove about 80% of the time with my dad taking over the other 20%. I used BlueCruise most of the time, which seems to work fine with the trailer. It does enforce hands-on-wheel by torque, and it’s annoying you can’t dismiss it the same way you can do it on a Tesla by changing volume. On a long drive I’m not going to be applying that much force on the wheel all the time you know? I also like to put both hands on the wheel, which counters out the downward force on each hand. For the most part BlueCruise worked well, although sometimes it would nonchalantly disengage which probably is a tad dangerous. The emergency stopping assistant also falsely triggered once on this trip, which is unpleasant every time that it does.

On that note, this truck was running on old software because of the bug with installing the November 2022 update. I contacted Ford once over the online chat who told me to go to the dealership, but I didn’t get to do that until after the trip. FWIW, the dealer didn’t quite fix it, but it made the update prompt go away on the truck (but not on the phone app).

The trip planning side was mostly via ABRP. ABRP was a baseline, rather, which provided a pretty solid list of charging stations and what they were, and what overall routes to use. After pulling up the route, I reviewed the charging stops to make sure they work. I also had to look up some alt charging locations in advance and wrote them down. Given that we needed a lot of space, we erred on the side of Electrify America. A lot of them have parking slots on both sides of the charger, which made it possible to drive up to them from the side, avoiding blocking the roads in the parking lot. There were a few pull-in chargers, like the ChargePoint ones in Maine. There were a few that were installed just this year, so we got lucky in that sense.

The most clutch of them all is the rest stop between 495 and 95 at West Gardiner. It goes up to 250KW and there are 2 of them, plus 3 slower 62KW ones. Too bad I didn’t find out about this station until I got up to Maine. Our trip back down was much smoother thanks to this one stop. What’s really neat as we found out is that none of the charging stops required us to disconnect the trailer.

The Scarborough, Maine Electrify America station is kind of broken, with only 1 out of 4 chargers working. We had arrived there in the morning and was able to beat the weekend crowd, so to speak. We made sure to skip that one on the way back. Massachusetts and Connecticut have plenty of chargers, so it wasn’t until we cross into NH/ME that it becomes a bit dire.

Other than ABRP, we also modified our routes using Google Maps. The built-in EV charger finding feature works okay, it’s better still than the one built into the Ford Lighting’s Sync4, so take that as you will. The only catch here is that while GMaps show more locations, not every one is vetted. The one in the truck didn’t show a lot of them, but I think it erred on the side of “what works.” Well, even then, it didn’t tell me that this one ChargePoint system was out of commission in Bangor, but that’s more a ChargePoint issue.

Here are the list of charging stops we made on the way up:

  • Walmart supercenter 1201 NY-300, Newburgh, NY 12550 (EA)
  • Walmart supercenter 420 Buckland Hills Dr, Manchester, CT 06042 (EA)
  • Pine Lake RV Resort Sturbridge, MA 01566
  • Walmart supercenter 700 Lafayette Rd, Seabrook, NH 03874 (EA)
  • Walmart supercenter 500 Gallery Blvd, Scarborough, ME 04074 (EA)
  • 206 Center Rd, Fairfield, ME (Irving gas station)

On the way down:

  • 392 Lewiston Rd, West Gardiner, ME 04345 (CP)
  • Walmart supercenter 700 Lafayette Rd, Seabrook, NH 03874 (EA)
  • Pine Lake RV Resort Sturbridge, MA 01566
  • RT. 15 New Canaan SB Service Plaza (GreenApple) (There is also DCFS on the NB side)

It feels like we did much better on the way down, also partly because we drove locally through Maine which provides a much better mileage per KW. Time-wise I think we were about 2 hours faster on the way back, and that’s including traffic (about the same both directions). And no I am not listing which dealership we charged in Bangor lol (and because, in retrospect, we did not have to stop there, it was just range anxiety).